Episode 89 – Eric Browning, Fin Fun
A Legacy of Fun and Family
Many of us know Fin Fun as the company that created the first real swimmable mermaid tail but how many of us know it took 40 different business ideas for serial entrepreneurs Karen and Jerry Browning to hit on that successful idea? “They were always doing something and my dad was always feeling out the next idea,” Eric said.
When the Browning's granddaughter came to grandma Karen and asked her to sew a mermaid tail, their life changed. Once their granddaughter's friends saw the tail, they all requested to have one. Word spread and in a short time they had created an eCommerce site and employed 7 part-time seamstresses to keep up with the demand.
It was at this same time that Karen and Jerry decided to serve a church mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. “That's when I [knew] their character because they finally found something that was working and they said ‘you know what, we feel impressed that it's our time to serve a mission',” Eric explained.
Although thriving in his own career, Eric said at this time he'd been observing what they were doing and helping here and there but he felt impressed that he needed to keep Fin Fun going. Eric's brother Steve and he decided to become partners with their parents and take over the business in the absence of their parents. Eric said, “My goal was that they (his parents) would never have to work again.”
Eric and Steve knew right away they needed to make changes to take the business to the next level. They soon added the mono-fin which took the floppy fabric to a rigid fin that could create propulsion. “It's not just something that looks cool, you can swim really well in these,” he said.
Once the mermaid idea was born, it blossomed. Fin Fun has a website dedicated to the fantasy world of mermaids and tells stories of mermaid friends all over the world as well as games and other mermaid themed content meant for kids. “We just kept going. Why not go for it, let's just go for it and we've had a lot of fun,” Eric said. Eric admits that he's had a great team that has been the foundation of Fin Fun's success.
“The challenge within our business is riding a trend and staying within that trend. Certainly, the mermaid tail, when it came out, was a huge trend. And the trend has come off like anything would so you have to find other ways to continue to keep a business rolling. That's the challenge we all face,” Eric explained. He has learned that any idea is a stepping stone to the next idea.
Fin Fun works to stay true to its mission of service and is involved in giving back to the community through different means, including donations. Eric also explained that they are working to show they live the mission for their employees too. This has included being flexible throughout the COVID-19 pandemic where the majority of the team are now working from home.
The company was founded on family and there are many family members involved in the business. “It wasn't just because they were family, they had the skills,” Eric said. Eric admits that as the company has matured it has had to evolve and learn and always put the people in the right seats despite their relation. “You have to remove the egos and get it out of the way,” he said. He admits that includes himself.
When asked about whether or not he's had feelings of doubt he admitted that he has. “I understand that I make mistakes, we've made a lot of mistakes. The key is to learn from those mistakes,” Eric said. He admits taking on the family business and all the responsibility that accompanied that was a lot of pressure. He said it motived him to be successful.
Eric said that business has helped him learn about himself and improve. He advises others to surround themselves with talented people and be grateful that everyone has different skills that can be leveraged. “You don't want to have a business that depends on one person,” he said. He supports that a true leader is one that can walk away and the business continues without them and has led Fin Fun with that philosophy.
Like all businesses, COVID-19 threw Fin Fun a curveball. Over the last couple of years, Fin Fun has employed SethAaron Henderson of Project Runway fame as their lead designer. Among other projects, SethAaron created a clothing line for the company. However, the timing of its launch hit just as COVID was ramping up and retail plummeted. Eric and Steve were faced with the difficult decision to pull the plug on the project. “SethAaron would still work with us in a minute and we'd work with him, but the timing isn't right now,” Eric said.
During the pandemic business actually has boomed because people were buying backyard pools and staying home. “Even during the toughest times, there are businesses that are ready to have success. Find a way to rearrange yourself to find a solution,” Eric said. He is optimistic that 2021 is going to be a great year for Fin Fun.
The plan for the future is to acquire or build up businesses through their parent company Blue Spring Partners. “I feel very strongly to say this time next year we will have acquired or have a new business that's moving along,” Eric shared.
To learn more about Fin Fun visit their website at https://www.finfunmermaid.com/. Find them on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
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